What’s new in specialty foods?
By GEORGEANNE BRENNAN
and ANN EVANS
Are you interested in new flavors of jams? Jellies? Mustards? Popcorn? Candy? Chocolate? Chips? Oils? Lemonades? Honeys? Pickles? Organic? Cured meats? Cheeses? In fact, over 1,350 producers of all sorts of specialty foods, including several from Yolo County, were displaying their wares, with many new product introductions at the San Francisco Fancy Food Show, held Jan. 19-21 at the Moscone Center. All the products were available for sampling, from caviar to barbeque sauce. It didn’t necessarily make for a balanced meal, but no one seemed to care, judging from watching the attendees happily spoon up chocolate sea salt sauce, followed by truffled popcorn, candy swirls, crustless quiches, frozen hibiscus pops and quaffing everything from Coco Hydro to cucumber-mint soda, and of course, lots of coffees and teas from around the world.
Yolo County’s Matthieu Kohlmeyer, CEO of La Tourangelle Artisan Oils was at his company’s booth, chatting with people and offering tastes of the Woodland-based firm’s popular walnut, pistachio and hazelnut oils, as well as tastes of its new organic coconut oil sourced from several small farms in the Philippines. He was also showing some of their new products, soon to be introduced, such as oil pan sprays that use compressed air as a propellant, ensuring that only pure oil meets the pan, and yes, walnut oil spray will be among the sprays available.
Capay Valley’s Seka Hills Extra Virgin Olive Oil had an extensive booth, and so did Z Specialty Foods/Moonshine Trading, where Ishai Zeldner, in his 35th year at the show, was handing out samples of his honeys and nut butters. Like La Tourangelle Artisan Oils, Zeldner’s operation is a family one, and also like La Tourangelle, it is established in Woodland. Ishai, when Georgeanne stopped to talk to him on the last day of the show, said, “People stop by and tell me my honey is the best at the show.” And, with so many honeys to taste, that was quite a compliment to the specialty food show veteran.
So, with all these thousands of food products, including those from Yolo County producers, could the food pundits see any trends emerging? What should we, the consumer, be on the lookout for on shelves near us? A panel of six ‘”trend spotters,” which included Joanne Weir, host of PBS’s “Joanne Weir’s Cooking Confidence” and Nancy Hopkins of Better Homes and Gardens, after carefully perusing the show’s products, came up with what they considered the Five Top Trends in flavors and categories to watch.
Sriracha and mint were two of the top five categories. Producers incorporated a wide range of food items with Sriracha, the spicy Thai sauce, using its complex flavor to heat up popcorn, tortilla chips, hummus and even a peach jam. Mint, the panel thought, is making a comeback, flavoring not only chocolates in new ways, but also sodas, frozen pops and even a water-based drink flavored with mint and licorice.
America has a long-time love affair with salty, crunchy snacks, so it’s not surprising the “Crunchy” category was a top five selection. There were pasta chips, quinoa chips, sprouted wheat pita chips, super food chips, and most exotic of all, popcorn flavored with toasted sesame and seaweed.
One could almost look at another top category, low-sugar drinks, as a companion to the crunchy snacks. Consider semi-sweet cola, hand-crafted ginger ale, and Coco-Hydro water, as well as a chocolate Earl Grey tea.
The most eclectic category, however, was what the panel called “Condiments Dressed Up,” and included Fine Herbes Mayonnaise, a take on the classic Fine Herbes Mustard, everyday ketchup dressed up with truffle flavor, salted caramel mustard sauce, infused olive oils, barbeque sauces and rubs.
So, how, if at all, will our pantries be changed based on these trends? Maybe we’ll use some of the ingredients we keep on hand in new ways. We love water – tap water, any water, with a few slices of cucumber and lemon, Sriracha is a standard ingredient in Georgeanne’s “secret” sauce for cracked crab and shrimp, and so why not add a little Sriracha to fruit marinade? Making chips out of homemade thin rolled pasta sounds like a good idea. Popcorn always makes a good snack, and what’s not to like tossing the puffed popcorn kernels with a little toasted sesame and crispy seaweed? Walnut and olive oil are staples for us, but it’s always fun to use familiar ingredients in new ways, and to discover new flavor combinations.
Walnut Mashed Potatoes with Walnuts and Walnut Oil
The richness of the walnuts, both the nuts and the oil, combine with the buttery flavor of the potatoes to make a new taste for an old favorite. Serve this with roast chicken or broiled salmon steaks.
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled or unpeeled
2 or more teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup walnuts, finely ground or chopped
4 tablespoons walnut oil
Cut each potato into three or four pieces and cook them in boiling, salted water until tender to a fork, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain off the water, then return them to the hot pan. Add the butter, ground walnuts and walnut oil and mash them until fluffy. Season with salt and pepper as desired.
Serve immediately. Serves four.